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Refurb contractors exposed to asbestos at primary school

The principal contractor on a London school refurbishment project and two contractors have been handed penalties totalling more than £1.5m after their failure to consider an asbestos survey left workers exposed to the dangerous fibres. 


A workman identified suspect asbestos-containing materials on 24 July 2012 when he removed part of a suspended ceiling at St Mary’s School in Waltham Forest. Asbestos fibres were subsequently found in several areas of the primary school.

The London Borough of Waltham Forest had a contract with NPS London to manage the development and refurbishment of its estate, Southwark Crown Court was told. NPS appointed Mansell Construction Services (now Balfour Beatty) as the principal contractor for the work, which subcontracted Squibb Group for the asbestos removal. 

An asbestos survey had been carried out, the Health and Safety Executive found, but the companies "did not review the survey report in detail and did not take into consideration the multitude of caveats”, inspector Sarah Robinson said.

Balfour Beatty Regional Construction was fined £500,000 plus £32,365 costs over the incident, after it pleaded guilty to breaching ss 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work (HSW) Act. 

NPS London admitted breaching s 3(1) of the HSW Act and was fined £370,000 with costs of £32,365. 

Squibb Group was found guilty of breaching s 2(1) of the HSW Act, fined £400,000 and ordered to pay costs of £175,000. 

“The work undertaken did not adopt the high standards of control expected for working where there was the potential to expose workers to asbestos,” Robinson added.


Keeley Downey was the former assistant editor of IOSH Magazine. Previously she was editor of Biofuels International, Bioenergy Insight and Tank Cleaning Magazine

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